Oct. 20, 2011
After two weeks off following the Northwestern Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill., the Minnesota women's tennis team opened play at the 2011 USTA/ITA Central Region Tennis Championships in Tulsa, Okla. on Thursday. All ten members of the team made the trip for the event, which runs through Sunday.
The ITA's Central Region includes 30 teams from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. Minnesota and Iowa are the lone women's Big Ten schools in the region.
Emilie Renault, Pauline Gilbert, Aria Lambert, Elianna Kantar got things started for the Gophers by playing in the tournament's qualifying rounds on Thursday afternoon. Each player lost her first match, but Renault, Gilbert, and Kantar bounced back with wins later in the day. Lambert retired from her first match against South Dakota State's Jenny Blackburne and did not play a second match.
Gilbert and Kantar fell in closely-contested, third-set match tiebreakers in their first matches, but went on to win in straight sets against opponents from Bradley. Renault rebounded from a 6-2, 7-5 loss to Missouri's Annemijn Koene by taking down Janelle Fung of Arkansas State 6-2, 6-0.
Five UM doubles tandems will begin doubles play tomorrow at 8 a.m.: Kantar and Gilbert, Lambert and Renault, Alexa Palen and Magdalena Wiecha, Natallia Pintusava and Julia Courter, and Yuliana Umanets and Doron Muravnik. The main singles draw, which begins after the opening-round doubles play concludes, is slated to start at 10:30 a.m.
Palen will compete in singles play for the first time this season on the weekend and Umanets and 61st-ranked Pintusava, who is the No. 1 seed, will play for the first time overall in 2011-12 in the tournament. Pintusava broke out at the 2010 Central Region singles tournament as a freshman, making an unprecedented run to the championship at the event in Fayetteville, Ark.
Through three tournaments in September and early October, Murvanik has been the team's top singles performer with a 5-1 record, while Wiecha and Courter both stand at 4-2. Wiecha and Palen have been Minnesota's top doubles combination so far at 5-2.
After completing play in Tulsa, the Gophers will finish off the fall season by playing at the Kitty Harrison Invitational in Chapel Hill, N.C. Nov. 4-6.